I grew up in a chicken house.
I don’t mean literally, of course, though when the wind is right I can smell five of them.
What I mean is, when I was a kid, I had it made.
Pawpaw got into the chicken business 48 years ago.
The farm he started in 1969 grew into a five-house operation which turns out about 92,000 birds a batch, give or take a few.
I followed Daddy in the chicken houses early in life, but something else happened at about the same time.
The age of modern video games dawned.
My parents bought a Nintendo Entertainment System in an effort to improve function in my left hand, which doesn’t work quite right because of cerebral palsy.
I don’t know how much the Nintendo helped my hand, but it was fun.
I played video games for years afterward, including some classic Madden games with buddies.
Looking back, though, I made a lot more lasting memories outside.
I learned how to hypnotize live chickens.
I learned to pick up dead chickens, as every 6-year-old should.
The more I picked them up, the more I learned it’s not wise to cut corners because if one is missed one day it’ll just have to be picked up the next morning.
Let’s just say it’ll be worse the next day.
I drove trucks and tractors, and popped wheelies on an old John Deere.
I wrecked a golf cart on more than one occasion, and drove a Gator wide open into a telephone pole.
My pinky finger broke, but at least my little sister is still alive.
We learned to shuck corn and shell peas.
I learned food grown in a garden tastes good, as does water from a garden hose.
Once, I found a garter snake in the garden and threw it on my cousin.
She got me back when we were swimming one summer when the plastic board she was standing on came up, hit me in the mouth and sent my tooth through my lip.
A thorn pierced my ear when I crawled under a fence on the way to swim in Cowpen Creek.
I tried to drown a bumblebee in a bucket. It didn’t end well for either of us.
I liked to catch fish, though I admit I also caught a lot of tree limbs.
I learned to skin a catfish, and I learned fillets are better.
I carried watermelon rinds to cattle, bottle fed a calf, laughed at goats, called hogs and marveled at Jack the donkey’s meanness.
Ladybug, our Shetland pony, bucked me off a few times.
We couldn’t figure out why, until we checked on her after a rainstorm and she was standing beside a foal.
No wonder she was ornery.
We had dogs, cats, turtles and a duck named Wally. A small gator briefly took up residence in our pond.
The game warden told us to throw rocks at it so it would leave before it grew.
You don’t have to tell a boy to throw rocks at something twice.
I shot tree-trunk targets with a slingshot and Coke cans with a Red Ryder BB gun.
I never shot my eye out.
Eventually, I moved up to shooting cans from my back deck with a .22 rifle which once belonged to my Pappaw.
My buddy shot Coke cans with me a lot. He accidentally shot the back deck once, but we superglued a leaf on it to cover up the evidence.
The deck is gone now, but we recently confessed.
I drank a lot of Dr. Pepper, and learned salted peanuts are best in a bottle of Coke.
I played The Oregon Trail. I waited for the mail.
I don’t look forward to letters now, but sometimes I look back on a time when there wasn’t much I looked forward to more than to walk out of a chicken house and jump into a pool.
What a time to be alive.